Packard Bell i xtreme MC 6112 Media Center PC

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  • Review Price: £1199.00

Windows Media Center is upon us, and it is an XP revision chock-a-block with multimedia features that challenges manufacturers to design the next evolutionary step for the PC. To produce a machine that will sit comfortably alongside your TV, video, Hi-Fi and satellite box is no mean feat. And whether it is a full blown Media Center PC like the Elonex eXentia or a non-MCE AV PC like the Hi-Grade Xperian, the response we have seen so far has been pretty encouraging. Until now.


You see, I have a problem with Packard Bell’s take on the Media Center PC. It’s like no effort has been made, either that or Packard Bell has just plain missed the point. I’m not sure which.


After all, isn’t the entire reason for producing a Microsoft Media Center based PC to design something to show off multimedia? Now, whether that is by creating a sexy machine like the Elonex eXentia that could make a 42in Sony Flat screen blush or simply putting out a refined desktop PC with a high quality screen and boom-bastic sound, I don’t mind. But what Packard Bell has done is put out a desktop PC with a small 15in flat screen, onboard sound and packaged it with two small golf ball-esque speakers with no separate subwoofer. This system couldn’t wake the cat, let alone the neighbours.


Designing a Media Center system should be the easiest, most fun job that a PC manufacturer can have. It doesn’t have to be the world’s fastest PC and, since this is a new product development, no one expects it to be bargain basement. But what Packard Bell has done with the MC6112 is compromise in all the wrong areas and, the Media Center software aside, put together a PC with specifications you could probably match trawling the Internet with a budget of £800.


So, breaking it down what have we got? A 2.6GHz P4 with 512MB of RAM, a 120GB hard drive, and a Radeon 9200 graphics card. For a price of £1200, this is nothing exceptional and I can’t say that I’m a fan of what it has been boxed in either. For my money, there is no worse surface than the shiny, bright white of the MC6112 when it comes to picking up bumps, scuffs and general soiling while the case itself features no reset button and conceals the drive bays behind rickety plastic doors, one of which had already broken on my review model when I received it. At least you do get a DVD writer, but the Pioneer 106D is a basic drive with only four-speed DVD-R and +R, 2.4-speed DVD+RW, two-speed DVD-RW, 16-speed CD-R and 10-speed CD-RW. In fact, this drive is about to be phased out by Pioneer in favour of the eight-speed DVR107.


The input devices are also disappointing to say the least. Packard Bell provides no more than a corded PS/2 keyboard and mouse, and while the keyboard is functional enough, the mouse is an old two button ball version. This is a shame a machine like this, which cries out for cordless and optical input peripherals.


The other major input device that comes with the MC6112 is the Media Center remote control. Packard Bell has provided an unmodified version of the standard Microsoft remote which is a little disappointing and there is no built in IR receiver in the case. Instead, the IR receiver is a separate ugly wired black block, which clashes horribly with Packard Bell’s chosen white finish.